March is just stomping right along for me. I’m on day 17 of my 21 day Fitness Challenge, and 10 working days away from a week in PARADISE. I can barely contain my excitement! As part of the challenge, we’ve been reading a self-improvement book as well. The Compound Effect, by Darren Hardy. It applies to the fitness challenge, but it’s been resonating with me more on a writing and publishing level. I don’t know why it never occurred to me before, but self-publishing is a form of entrepreneurship. Seriously – I know I’m trying to build a business and that I want to work for myself, I just always thought of it as “cheating the system” by making money from my art. But it’s not cheating the system. There is a whole other system for entrepreneurs. It’s well-established and well-documented, and reading this book has opened my eyes to a sub-genre of self-improvement books that I had never considered useful before. The book itself is pretty straightforward. Distilled down to its simplest form, the message is this: the recipe for success is not about getting lucky or hitting it big, it’s about the small, consistent habits that compound over time for a big payoff. Work hard, be consistent, and you will get results. It’s true for everything in life – eating healthy, exercising, improving relationships, learning piano, finishing school, getting ahead in your job, or starting your own business. A perfect example – Russell Wilson.
If you follow him on social media, you know. If you don’t, you should. Is he a gifted athlete with good genetics and a good start in life? Sure. But lots of people are that. What sets DangerRuss apart are his work ethic and his positive attitude. That guy WORKS HIS ASS OFF (#notime2sleep), and he takes the energy he has left and puts it into giving back and inspiring others (cultivating good Karma, imo, which also compounds over time and pays dividends).
The same applies to writing and publishing. Butt in chair. Words on a page. Write, publish, repeat. Work hard (write quality books) and be consistent (several a year) and you will get results (readership will grow). Every successful author has said, “treat it like a business” but I never got it until now. Here is a great example chock full of good advice from bestselling author Shannon Mayer. And here is another one by Chuck Wendig, who is famous for summing all the writing advice that you need into three words: Finish your shit.
The bad news, for me (and maybe you too?) is… slacking and procrastination have to be a thing of the past if I want to succeed at this writing gig. I’ve always been able to “wing it” and land somewhere above average. Cram for a test and get a B+, put off a big project at work and stay up all night finishing it. Binge-write half a novel in a week. (Waiting until 4 weeks before my vacation to get serious about diet and exercise, heh). It’s time to admit that this is not a winning strategy, even if I’ve skated by in life up until now. I don’t want to “skate by” anymore. I want to achieve. I’m not going to pull a hat trick at the eleventh hour and hit a bestseller list. Only consistent hard work will get me there.
“The way you do one thing defines the way you’ll do everything.” ~Robin Sharma
My yoga teacher reminded us of this yesterday. And when I’m really honest about that, I see that is pretty much true. I can tell myself that I work well under pressure, but really? That is not setting myself up for success. That mindset and those habits HAVE TO GO. I am mindful in my yoga practice. I’m consistent, patient, I work hard, and I DO see results. It’s time to start doing everything like I do that, ESPECIALLY writing. The other quote she shared with us was:
“Be careful of your thoughts, for your thoughts become your words. Be careful of your words, for your words become your actions. Be careful of your actions, for your actions become your habits. Be careful of your habits, for your habits become your character. Be careful of your character, for your character becomes your destiny.” — Chinese proverb, author unknown
So, thanks to this book and the message in other places in my life, I am changing my small habits so that I can get into a groove. I’ve already started tracking and changing some key things that were getting in my way. I’ve taken a look at my writing goals and done the math on what it will take to make them happen. Cut up into small, digestible pieces, it’s not that much: draft 1000 words a day or edit 10 pages a day, respectively. Totally doable. Just like taking my vitamins or doing yoga. Make it a daily habit, and watch the results compound. 🙂
There’s a lot more great advice in the book on how to set yourself up for success by choosing your inputs/outputs wisely too. It’s worth a read if you’re struggling in any area of your life, and there are plenty of worksheets available to download to help you formulate a plan. So, which are you? A tortoise or a hare? Has your strategy gotten you where you want to go? If not, maybe consider tweaking it.